Full Series Review 4: Claymore
Claymore is a dark, atypical anime series. It has a lot of elements of shounen action and was featured in Shonen Jump magazine (the biggest publisher of Shonen manga in the U.S.). But, in many ways it is very different from other works in the genre, even crossing genre lines from shounen/action into horror. In this way it is similar to Deadman Wonderland, Hellsing, D. Grey Man, Elfen Lied, etc.
The setting is a fantasy medieval society. The villagers live in fear of these creatures called youma, who prey on human flesh. They hire assassins to hunt the youma that are called claymores or silver-eyed witches. These are female warriors with silver eyes, whitish hair, and incredible, super-human strength. Claymores also have the ability to sense the presence of youma even when the youma possess people and pose as human. Though their organization has no name and they simply refer to themselves as "warriors from the organization", they have become known as Claymores because of the large swords they carry.
When a young boy named Raki sees his family get murdered by youma, he is saved by Clare, a claymore. Clare tells the boy to leave her alone when he tries to follow her, saying that she didn't save him for his sake but because she was doing her job. However, Raki persists in following her and they develop a friendship. However, this kind of thing is incredibly unusual and unheard of for a claymore to do, especially because most humans fear claymores almost as much as they fear the youma themselves.
In-depth Criticism and Analysis (Contains spoilers)
The series progresses from it's starting point in a fast-paced, dramatic fashion. There is no filler and I would say every single fight scene moves the plot forward. As opposed to other shounen action shows that are long-runners like Inuyasha, this is pretty amazing.
However, Claymore the anime stops at 26 episodes and barely scratches the surface when it comes to vital secrets about the organization the claymores work for and the origin and identity of claymores themselves. One of the biggest problems I had with it was that the ending left a lot of secrets unrevealed and a lot of plot missing. I'm not sure if they intend to produce a second season of the anime, but my 26-episode DVD box set claims to be "the complete series". This is one of few series where I really would recommend reading the manga instead of the anime; the anime does not give you a complete view of the story and leaves a lot unresolved. After completing the anime, I realized that I should read the manga after seeing that TV Tropes named characters that weren't even in the anime.
This is a problem for some series, that don't become popular enough right away for a network to green-light a second or a third season. In this case, I found it disheartening.
Claymore is a human drama with psychological aspects and an exploration of human bonding and affection. It's also compelling to me because it has such great, atypical female characters. Claymore is one of few series with a mostly female cast, and most of that female cast consists of warriors, and they are not portrayed as beautiful sex objects but as real fighters. (In fact, it's revealed that they physically can't have sex.)
This is huge, considering that a western audience still can't deal with the idea of Wonder Woman wearing pants. And, at first it seems like it has a Charlie's Angel's aspect to it, as there is a man from the organization who deals with giving most of the claymores their orders. But even this gets deconstructed when the audience sees the revealed reality that the organization is evil, and constructed the youma to terrorize people into submission, and that the good claymores are the ones that decided to openly rebel against it. That's why I'm disheartened by the ending, because the rebellion of some defiant claymores (Clare being one of them) seems to be to be the most compelling story arc, and yet this aspect of the plot has hardly begun by the end of the anime.
Claymore, like many other shows that touch on transhumanism themes (like Ghost in the Shell) explores what it means to be human when a character gains a form that is much more powerful than that of a human, though they originally were human. I like shows like this for the philosophical complexity, considering that technology like that portrayed in futuristic cyborg shows is right on the horizon. Claymore seems to have created the fantasy genre's equivalent to the cyborg; someone infused with what are essentially magical parasites that come from a dragon. In that way, claymore reads sometimes like a retro cyberpunk, which is very cool.